3. Law and Grace, 5:1-7:29

ix] Judgment and grace


Matthew's account of the Sermon on the Mount continues with an examination of self-righteousness at work, as opposed to grace for the asking.


The consequential self-righteousness that ensues from law-obedience is evidenced by judgmentalism.


i] Context: See 5:1-10.


ii] Structure: Balance and perfection:

Judging others, v1-5:

Exhortation, 1-2;

Explanation, v3-5:

The parable of the eye, v3-5;

The limitations of a wise word, v6;


setting pearls before swine.

The Father's care, v7-11:

Saying, v7:

ask, seek and knock.

Explanation, v8-11:

Saying, v8:

he who asks receives ....

Parable, v9-10;

stone and snake.

Saying, v11;

we who are wicked ....3

The golden rule, v12


do unto others ...


Again we have Matthew's particular arrangement of source material which Luke also avails himself of. There is some evidence that the pericopes found in this source material (Q or oral) were themselves a compilation of independent sayings and parables of Jesus, cf., v7-11 (an apostolic arrangement of Jesus' teachings???). Yet, as Luz says of v7-11, as they now exist they "make a compact impression."


iii] Interpretation:

To this point in the Sermon on the Mount, reliance on self-righteousness has been exposed as worthless. It is simply not possible to share in the promised blessings of the covenant through obedience to the Law, for such obedience would have to be perfect. Matthew answers the problem posed by God's impossible law outline in chapter 5 by means of a personal relationship with God, 6:1-18, which is both loyal / focused, v19-24, and faith-dependent, v25-34. So, the full appropriation of kingdom blessings is a gift of grace through faith and not by works of the law. Matthew now in chapter 7 records Jesus' teaching on the outward evidence of a law-righteous condition, namely, unbridled judgmentalism. The reader is warned of the danger of failing to discern the flawed ethic of judgmentalism, and is provided with a way of escape.

With the command not to judge we are warned that the standard by which we judge others will be the standard by which we are judged, v1-2. In a parable / illustration we are confronted with the reality of judgmentalism, namely a tendency toward speck-removal, v3-5. A proverbial saying, v6, is then used to make the point that such warnings are not only rejected, but are aggressively opposed by our sinful nature (the law makes sin more sinful). A saying in v7-8 identifies the way of escape from this lost condition, ie., the condition of eschatological judgment which hangs over all sinful humanity. The way of escape is by grace: ask, seek and knock. This way is illustrated in v9-11, making the point that since we tend to be gracious toward our own children, then obviously there is no limit to God's Fatherly kindness toward us. Finally, God's perfect law, as regards our neighbor, is summarized, v12, reminding us again to rely on the Father's kindness rather than on our ability to do his impossible will - it is impossible to love others as we would have them love us.

The passage prompts the question as to which house do I belong to? Am I a doer, or a receiver; am I speck-remover, or a grace-sharer? This question dominates chapter 7, and will be clarified in 7:13-29 in four parables / sayings: the two ways, the two trees, the two claims and the two builders, all serving as "a concluding series of challenges to implement Jesus' teaching", Nolland.


It should be noted that most commentators tend to treat this passage, as with the earlier passages in the Great Sermon, in ethical terms, what Davies & Allison call "social issues" - the business of discipleship in a secular world. Such an approach misses the whole point of the sermon - it is not about law, but about grace.


The two ways - law-righteousness or grace through faith. Paul's letters to the Romans and Galatians expose the problem of law-righteousness / nomism / pietism / sanctification by obedience, and do so in great detail. Jesus tackles the same issue in the Great Sermon, which teaching is the foundation for Paul's exposition of the Law.

It is only natural to think that personal effort is required for divine reward, that God blesses good people, faithful people. The trouble is, when faithfulness is added to faith trouble ensues. Given our state of sin, the more we strive to obey God's law for divine blessing the more our sinful state is exposed. Denial of this sinful state is the only way to maintain sanity, and one of the best ways of achieving this end is to focus on the failings of others - good old speck removal! "I thank you God that I am not like other people, thieves, rogues, adulterers, .....", Lk.18:9-14.

Jesus, in the passage before us, helps us identify whether we are in a self-righteous deluded state, and this by means of a speck-removal test. If we are into judging others then the chances are we are pietists, we are infected with the idea that God rewards / blesses faithfulness. It is essential we remember that the totality of God's blessings are found in Christ, blessings received in full by asking.

Of course, someone may well respond "what shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? Not at all. How shall we, who have died to sin, still live in it", Rom.6:1-2. Grace tends to make us gracious; law tends to make us judgmental.


iv] Synoptics:

The bulk of this passage is found in Luke, with most commentators accepting the mutual adoption of a common written source, probably Q. Of course, Matthew may have used Luke, or Luke may have used Matthew, or both independently may have used an oral source.


v] Exposition: A simple verse-by-verse exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 7:1

The two states - law or grace, v1-11: i] Judging others, v1-5. a) Principle - judge not, v1-2. What we have here is an "absolute prohibition of judging" which "represents another ethical radicalism of Jesus, corresponding to the absolute demands in the antitheses of the Sermon on the Mount", Strecker. "The judgmental person, by not being forgiving, testifies to their own arrogance and impenitence, by which they shut themselves out from God's forgiveness", Manson.

mh krinete (krinw) pres. imp. "do not judge" - Harsh unjust criticism. The present tense may give the sense of stop doing it, rather than end a habit.

iJna mh + subj. "or you too will" - lest. Forming a negated purpose clause; "that you may not", Moffatt.

kriqhte (krinw) aor. pas. subj. "be judged" - you be judged. Often moved into the active voice with the assumed judge identified, "and God won't condemn you", CEV. Note Phillips takes the condemnation as the criticism of others, "and you will not be criticized."


The standard by which we judge is the standard by which God will judge us. Recently a rugby star in Australia, a person who is also a lay preacher, put up on his social media page a list of sinners who are going to hell unless they repent. The list had the usual suspects on it, but also included homosexuals. Although a matter of debate, it is very unlikely that a homosexual inclination is of itself sinful; what is sinful is homosexual sex. The problem with the list is that it wasn't complete, given that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." If you are going to put homosexuals on a list of sinners then you have to put heterosexuals on it as well, given Matt.5:27-28. Speck removal is a dangerous business!

gar "for" - More reason than cause; establishing a logical connection in the argument.

en + dat. "in the same way" - with [what]. Probably adverbial, modal, expressing manner, as NIV; "as you judge", Moffatt.

krimati (a atoV) "[you judge]" - judgment [you judge you will be judged]. Used of a negative judicial judgment. Here of the passing of an adverse judgement on others.

metrhqhsetai (metrew) fut. pas. "it will be measured" - [and with what measure you measure] it will be measured. Again, the sense may be of getting back in this life what we give, but divine judgment is not far below the surface and may well be indicated by the passive (the theological passive where God is the implied agent).

uJmin dat. pro. "to you" - Dative of indirect object / interest, disadvantage.


b) Illustration / explanation - speck-removal, v3-5. Jesus now illustrates his point. There is nothing wrong with helping a brother recognize and deal with a weakness in their Christian life, 1Cor.11:31, Gal.6:1. There is a problem though, if, oblivious to our own failings (the "plank"), we busy ourselves exposing the failings of others - the art of speck-removal.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, and so not translated.

ti pro. "why [do you look]" - why [do you see]. Impersonal interrogative pronoun.

to karfoV (oV ouV) "the speck of sawdust" - a small piece of wood, chaff, or even straw; speck, splinter*. Accusative direct object of the verb "to see." Here of identifying a failing in another person.

to "-" - the. The articles serves as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional phrase "in the eye of the brother over you" into an attributive modifier limiting "speck"; "the speck that is in the brother's eye", ESV.

en + dat. "in" - Local, expressing space.

tou adelfou (oV) gen. "[your] brothers [eye]" - [the eye] of the brother [of you]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive.

de "and" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step to contrasting point; "but do not notice ...", ESV.

thn .... dokon (oV) "the plank" - the ... beam of wood [in the eye of you]. Accusative direct object of the verb "to consider." It is possible that the major flaw missed by the speck-remover is their state of loss in the sight of God - a condemned sinner busying themselves identifying sin in others while ignoring their own total state of loss before God. Nonetheless, allegorical attempts to identify the "speck" and "plank" are probably misguided. The illustration simply describes the business of judging others.

ou katanoeiV (katanoew) "pay no attention to" - you do not consider, understand. "And never notice the plank that is in your own eye", Barclay.


h "-" - or. Adjunctive. Introducing another example of the foolishness of harshly criticizing others.

pwV "how" - how. Here serving to introduce an rhetorical question that poses an improbable proposition. A person who has failed to recognize their own state of loss is not the best person to help another with a particular personal failing, eg., the best person to get real-estate advice from is someone who has made far too many costly blunders over their life and knows it.

tw/ adelfw/ (oV) dat. "to [your] brother" - [will you say] to the brother [of you]. Dative of indirect object.

afeV (afihmi) aor. imp. "let me" - allow, let [me]. "Let me extract that splinter from your eye", Berkeley.

ekbalw (ekballw) aor. subj. "take [the speck] out" - cast out. Hortatory subjunctive with auxiliary force; "allow me to cast out ...."

ek + gen. "out of [your eye]" - [the speck] from [the eye of you, and behold the beam is already in the eye of you]. Expressing separation; "away from."


uJpokrita (hV ou) voc. "you hypocrite" - you player of a part. Possibly "oversuspicious", but more likely "playacting". "You fraud", Phillips.

tote adv. "[and] then" - [first take out from the eye of you the beam and] then. Temporal adverb serving to introduce a temporal clause.

diableyeiV (diablepw) fut. "you will see clearly" - you will see sharply. "Who best to preach than a sinner?" (For movie trivia buffs, this line was used by Allan Lad in a B grade Western, and yes, he was wearing his uplift boots!). Only the preacher who has recognized their sin and come to rest wholly on the grace of God, has the ability, let alone the authority, the address the sin of another.

ekbalein (ekballw) aor. inf. "to remove" - to take out [the speck from the eye of the brother of you]. The infinitive introduces an adverbial clause, final, expressing purpose, "in order to take out", or consecutive, expressing result, "see clearly enough to take out", Zerwick.


ii] Proverbial saying - pearls before swine, v6. Interpretations abound when it comes to casting a "precious thing" before "pigs". It is often argued that the "beautiful thing" is the gospel and that it should not be repeatedly proclaimed to those who refuse to hear it. Yet, it is probably better to interpret the proverb within its context. Most likely the precious thing is a wise word, just like the one given by Jesus to those who would judge others. Jesus may hope that his listeners will see that their own sin must be addressed before preaching to others, but many of the law-bound children of God / nomists have long lost the ability to see past their own self-righteousness. Thus, for them, the precious truth that they are log-bound, but can be log-lifted, is often a truth that prompts righteous indignation rather than repentance.

mh dwte (didwmi) aor. subj. "do not give" - do not give [holy things]. Subjunctive of prohibition, a strong command not to perform an action; "on no account give ...", Turner.

toiV kusin (wn noV) dat. "dogs" - to dogs. Dative of indirect object. Street dogs or watch dogs*.

to aJgion adj. "what is sacred" - holy things. If parallel with "pearl", it simply means something precious and by nature, not appreciated by a dog. See Black where he discusses the possibility that the Greek is alluding to the Aramaic word "gold ring."

emprosqen + gen. "to [pigs]" - [nor throw the pears] before [swine]. Spacial.

mhpote + fut. "if you do" - lest. Usually with a subjunctive introducing a negated final clause, "in order that they will not trample"; "lest they trample them underfoot", ESV.

katapathsousin (katapatew) fut. "they may trample" - they will trample, squash. A future tense will sometimes stand in for a subjunctive.

en + dat. "under [their feet]" - with [the feet of them]. Here instrumental, expressing means; "lest they trample them with their feet."

strafenteV (strefw) aor. pas. part. "turn" - [and] having turned [they will tear you]. The participle is adverbial, possibly temporal, "and on turning", or just attendant circumstance, "turn and attack you."

hJhxwsin (hJrhgnumi) aor. subj. "tear [you] to pieces" - they will tear, break, attack [you]. Subjunctive introducing a final clause expressing purpose, "in order not to tear you to pieces", or simply coordinate with "they trample." Possibly a chiastic construction (inverted word order, see Turner) such that the pigs do the trampling and the dogs do the tearing to pieces.


iii] The Father's care, v7-11. a) The way of escape - ask, seek and knock, v7. Far too often these verses are treated as if they are a general word on prayer, although seeking ("asking plus acting", Hendriksen - ho-hum) and knocking, defy such an idea and the context in no way supports it. This pericope / episode, v7-11, sits between Jesus' word on the judgmental behavior of the self-righteous, behavior which identifies their condition of loss, v1-6, and the parables of the two ways, two trees, two claims and two builders, which serve to remind the self-righteous that their imperfect righteousness places them under a curse, not a blessing, v13-27. There is little point identifying a problem and not supplying an answer. If law-obedience only produces nomism and ultimately God's condemnation, then how does a person maintain covenant standing for the appropriation of God's promised blessings? Jesus is not speaking about prayer in general, but how it is possible to secure eternal standing in the kingdom of heaven apart from the Law. "The good things which will be given by God in answer to prayers are themselves certainly related to entrance into the kingdom", Patte. This is all about "knocking at the gates of mercy", Talmud.

aiteite (aitew) imp. "Ask" - ask [and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you]. All three, "ask, seek, knock" are present imperatives (durative = a process), with "given" a future passive, "find" a future active, and "opened" a future passive. NIV etc., adds "door".

uJmin dat. pro. "[it will be given] to you" - Dative of indirect object.


b) Explanation #1. The "righteousness that exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees", without which a person will "certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven", is not earned by doing, but is given as a gift for the asking.

gar "for" - More reason than cause, serving as an explanation, in fact, the verse virtually repeats v7, but moves from an imperative to an indicative, a command to a promise. Best left untranslated.

oJ aitwn (aitew) pres. part. "who asks" - [everyone] asking [receives, and the one seeking finds, and to the one knocking it will be opened]. As with "he who seeks" and "to him who knocks", the participle serves as a substantive, although if the adjective "all" is taken as a substantive, "everyone", the participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "everyone". Barclay makes a point of emphasizing the durative aspect of the present tense, but it seems doubtful whether Jesus is encouraging persistence; "for everyone who keeps on asking gets what he asks for; he who keeps on seeking, finds; if a man keeps on knocking, the door will be opened."

tw/ krouonti (krouw) dat. pres. part. "to the one who knocks" - The participle serves as a substantive, dative of interest, advantage; "for the one who knocks."


c) Explanation #2. An illustration based on the how much more principle, v9-10. What Father would give a stone to a child that asks for bread, or a snake when the child asks for fish. If a human dad wouldn't do such an evil thing, imagine how much more our heavenly Father wouldn't act in such an evil way.

h "-" - or. Used here and in v10 as a disjunctive conjunctive where a related alternative is being suggested. It certainly works in v10 as an alternate to v9, both of which are interrogative sentences. The fit with v8 is not so obvious, although the subject-matter remains the same.

tiV pro. "which" - what. Interrogative pronoun. Nominative subject of the verb to be, "who is the person .....?", or serving as an adjective limiting anqrwpoV, "man", "which person ....?", Olmstead.

ex (ek) + gen. "of [you]" - [man] from [you]. Serving instead of a partitive genitive; "who of you" = "who among you." We have here an example of the "how much more" formula. If humans can be kind, imagine how kind God can be. Of course, the kindness here is the gift of eternal standing before God / righteousness, not the provision of our every whim, or even need. "There would not be one human being who would give his son a stone when he had just asked for a bread roll."

mh "[will he give him a stone?]" - [whom will ask the son of him bread] not [a stone will he give to]? This negation in a question expects a negative answer, "no father would do such a thing."

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - to him. Dative of indirect object.


"If" - [or] if [also a fish he asks]. A condition is implicit.

ofin (iV ewV) "a snake" - [then not] a snake [will he give to him]. Probably an eel-like catfish is intended, very bony and not good eating.


d) Explanation #3. If a father, a member of the sinful human race, knows how to give good gifts to his son, "how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him." If we humans can be gracious, imagine how gracious God can be. The "good gift" is God's promised blessings - salvation and everything that this entails.

ei + ind. "if [you]" - Introducing a 1st class conditional clause where the condition is assumed to be true, "if, as is the case, [you being evil know ....] then [how much more .....]"

oun "then" - therefore. Inferential; drawing a logical conclusion.

onteV (eimi) part. "though you are" - being. The participle of the verb to-be is adverbial, introducing a concessive clause, "even though", as NIV. "For all your evil", Phillips.

ponhroi adj. "evil" - Jesus is establishing the Pauline truth, "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." "Bad", TEV, REB, CEV,... is a bit light; "corrupted" would be better.

didonai (didwmi) inf. "to give" - [know good gifts] to give. The infinitive introduces an dependent statement of perception expressing what is known, namely, "how to give...."

agaqa adj. "good things" - good. Adjective serving as a substantive, accusative direct object of the verb "to give.". The "good things" have always been a matter of dispute. Note how Luke defines the "good thing", Lk.11:13. Surely eternal standing / righteousness / covenant compliance = blessings = the Holy Spirit.

toiV teknoiV (on) dat. "to [your] children" - Dative of indirect object.

posw/ dat. pro. "how much [more]" - how [much more the father of you]. Dative of degree of difference. With mallon, "more", serving to establish a lesser to greater argument.

oJ "-" - the one [in the heavens]. The article serves as an adjectivizer, turning the prepositional phrase "in heaven" into an attributive modifier, limiting "Father"; "your Father who is in heaven", ESV.

toiV aitousin (aitew) dat. pres. part. "to those who ask [him]" - [will give good things] to the one asking [him]. The participle serves as a substantive, dative of indirect object.


iv] The Golden Rule, v12. Although often treated as nothing more than a guide to godly living, which function it can serve, this saying is more a summation of Jesus' radical teaching on neighborly love. As such, the saying does not in any way lighten the impossible demands of God's law, for who is there that acts toward others as they would act toward themselves? So, the saying rounds off Matthew's exposition of the gospel whereby he draws the reader to grace through law - "the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith", Gal.3:24.

Note the shorter version of The Golden Rule in Luke 6:31. Note also rabbi Hillel's version, 10BC, "what is hateful to you do not to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah, while the rest is commentary."

oun "so" - therefore [everything whatever you wish that men do for you]. Inferential; probably summing up, or possibly just serving to introduce a generalization.

ou{twV adv. "in everything" - in this way [also]. Modal adverb, expressing manner; "whatever you wish others do to you, in like manner / in this way also (adjunctive kai) do to them." Luke uses the comparative adverb oJmoiwV

uJmeiV "[do to others]" - you [do to them]. Emphatic use of the personal pronoun. Even with this ethical rule-of-thumb, although an excellent guide to right living for a follower of Christ, we will rarely ever act toward others the way we would like them to act toward us.

oJsa ean + subj. "what" - whatever, all things whatever. Introducing an indefinite relative clause; "whatever you wish others would do to you", ESV. "Nothing is excluded from this rule", Stott.

iJna + subj. "[them do]" - [you wish, want, will] that [men do]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what is wished / willed, namely "that others ("men") would do kindly to you"; "in everything you must treat others as you would want them to treat you", Barclay.

uJmin dat. pro. "to you" - Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage.

gar "for" - More reason than cause, explanatory, so best not translated; "this is a summary of the message (teaching) of the Law and the Prophets", Barclay.

ouJtoV ... estin " this sums up" - this is [the law and the prophets]. The "is" is best taken as "sums up", although REV opts for "is". The Golden Rule not only summarizes Jesus neighborly teaching, but it also summarizes the neighborly teaching of the Law and the Prophets, ie., the teachings of the Old Testament scriptures as a whole.


Matthew Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]